Henrik Lundqvist likely will be a target of the Washington Capitals when the NHL free agent market opens Friday, Oct. 9.
“We’re looking for a backup veteran goaltender,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Tuesday. “I mean, he’s a really solid candidate for us.”
Lundqvist can sign with any team as an unrestricted free agent after the 38-year-old goalie had the final year of his seven-year, $59.5 million contract ($8.5 million average annual value) bought out by the New York Rangers on Sept. 30.
The Capitals are expected to be in the market for a goalie because they likely won’t re-sign Braden Holtby, with the 31-year-old who won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16 with Washington expected to become an unrestricted free agent.
That would leave the Capitals with only Ilya Samsonov on the NHL roster. Samsonov, a rookie this season, has started 22 NHL games.
Lundqvist on Sunday tweeted his desire to continue playing.
“I still love to compete. I still love the game and I still want to WIN!” Lundqvist wrote.
Lundqvist was 459-310-96 with a 2.43 goals-against average,.918 save percentage and 64 shutouts in 887 NHL games during 15 seasons with New York. He was 61-67 with a 2.30 GAA, .921 save percentage and 10 shutouts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, which they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
Lundqvist started four of New York’s final 29 games this season, finishing with the fewest games (30), starts (26) and wins (10) of his NHL career, going 10-12-3 with a 3.16 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
He started and lost the Rangers’ first two games against the Carolina Hurricanes in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers because Igor Shesterkin was unfit to play. Shesterkin returned for Game 3 with Lundqvist as his backup in what was his last game with New York.